Covid-19 and school closures: our emergency response
With another lockdown underway, London’s children urgently need your support. A donation of £20 will help to provide eight meals and home schooling resources for a family who are in desperate need.
Currently, there are at least 500,000 children living in households experiencing food insecurity – up by 100,000 since summer 2019. Covid-19 is hugely exacerbating these issues, and these figures will likely continue to increase. Holiday food and activity programmes like Kitchen Social are vital in helping to reach and support the hardest hit families.
Kitchen Social, a Mayor’s Fund for London programme, is the largest provider of food for children in London during the school holidays.
Working with a network of community organisations across 24 boroughs, so far this year, the programme has served just under half a million meals.
The Government’s announcement in November outlining a 2021 funding package to help alleviate child food poverty in the UK was a welcome step in the right direction. However, we cannot forget the 1.7 million children living in food insecure households who will not qualify for extra support since the provision is exclusively for children eligible for Free School Meals (FSM). The FSM eligibility criteria is low, which means that thousands more children living in low income households will not qualify. The funding is also not a comprehensive solution. As we understand it, only six of the 13 weeks of school holidays over the academic year will be supported, leaving seven weeks unfunded. In addition, local authorities are not mandated to draw down this funding so councils could opt-out, leaving children in those areas vulnerable and without any support.
The next step must be to consider what can be done to protect the health and well-being of those falling through the gaps. We will continue to campaign for the extension of the scheme for all children and young people, and aim to provide healthy food and activities in London for however long this crisis lasts.
If you are a local authority looking to provide holiday food and activities in your borough, we would love to hear from you.
Kitchen Social is a programme that addresses the growing and serious issue of children and young people facing food insecurity and social isolation outside of term time. Poor nutrition and isolation not only affect a child’s physical well-being, but also their long-term educational attainment and employment prospects, thereby perpetuating the cycle of poverty.
The programme gives children and young people a safe place to go during the school holidays where they can socialise, make new friends and get a free, healthy meal.
During the 2019/2020 academic year, the programme worked with 81 hubs across 24 boroughs, to deliver 1,445 activity sessions and provide just under 500,000 meals to 6,477 children and young people.
As part of the programme, Kitchen Social now also offers high quality recipe-kit boxes, called ‘Take & Make’, which encourage and support children to cook at home.Taking insp iration from the recipe kit box phenomenon – Hello Fresh and Mindful Chef – these boxes are a direct response to the Covid-19 crisis allowing us to get healthy food into homes regardless of the lockdown status. Working with the chefs and nutritionists at the Let’s Cook Project, every box contains step by step instructions and important skill training cards plus online video tutorials to build confidence in cooks of all ages.
The experience of cooking meals not only builds self-confidence and lays the foundation for healthy eating habits, but can also help young kids learn other skills such as basic maths concepts.
During this challenging time, and in partnership with Sustain, the alliance for better food and farming, we bring you DIGITAL DIGEST – a series exploring some of the key food issues we’re facing right now, and ways in which we can tackle food insecurity and protect children’s right to food. A huge thank you to all the industry experts for their contributions.
We believe that free holiday provision should be high-quality, inclusive and sustainable. At present, provision in both London and the rest of the UK remains far from this vision.
There remain key challenges and opportunities that we are well positioned to respond to in order to advance this vision.
Kitchen Social has three key objectives:
- To test and prove a model for London, supported by a compelling evidence base.
- To galvanise the London community around this issue, raise awareness of the negative impact on young people and build infrastructure that supports delivery of solutions.
- To campaign along other stakeholders for national policy change to ensure that free holiday provision for low income young people is high quality, inclusive and sustainable.